Right Next To The KY

A few weeks ago, I wrote this impassioned, angsty post about my squick points in SPN fandom. I was very specific. I was very serious. I was very delusional to think that everything would stay so neatly within the proper boundaries.

Especially since past me wrote, then:

But I guess I see the whole notion of squick in slash as generative, as a way of delimiting one’s imaginative [sexual] boundaries and then shifting those borders as needed.

Which, at the time, I thought applied to other people. That my “imaginative boundaries” were firmly planted; once negotiated, now settled.

And I was pretty freaking certain about the Stonehenge of my squick: real world. As I said then:

So I actively avoid learning anything about the real world side of SPN.

Enter Tumblr. And Stonehenge falls.

Still, it seems that past me was at least aware of this possibility, though I tried to couch it in terms of my scholarship, ’cause that’s the shell I run to when I’m freaked:

Maybe it’s just temporary. Maybe it’ll be like my once avowed opposition to J2… a taboo that flew by the wayside thanks to my research on meta slash fic.

Right. RESEARCH.

Sam loves research. He does. He keeps it under his mattress, right next to the KY.

Shut up, Dean.

So this week, when I found myself happily reading J2 and liking it, for gods’ sakes! and it wasn’t even anything I could vaguely point to as being useful in this paper or the next one, I had a moment of: oh shit. Who am I? What have I become?

Well, that goes without saying by now.

Then I self-flagellated myself to a friend, someone I can count on to slap me down if necessary, and this person said:

Dude. There’s good stuff in every genre. If you’re reading it and you like it, it makes you happy, then do it. If you don’t and it’s not, then stop.

Basically: stop angst-ing about reading porn. Jesus.

Now, I still don’t want to know about anyone’s kids, or people’s marriages or ways of working or dogs or whatever–see? I’ve already said too much. But I’m less terrified of what will happen if I do, accidently. I still don’t seek this shit out, this kind of real world knowledge, but if I pick some up through an AU J2, really. My brain will not explode. And I’m not, therefore, a terrible person.

I can be amused by stuff like this and not forfit my professional fangirl card, not lose the illusion that I can summon cool detachment in the middle of Wincest and go “hey, yeah, I can use that. For RESEARCH.”

Because I totally can.

This is a long way of saying, I guess, that the fences are still flexible in my corner of fandom. Which I knew, but. I guess I wasn’t ready for the pastures to move so soon, you know?

I guess what worries me is that I have a tendency, once I drift into a particular subgenre as a reader to want to go there as a writer. But I’m sure that won’t happen here.

No freaking way.

Not As Easy To Pretend

A couple of weeks ago, someone found this blog via the search term “becky and sam slash fiction.” Which reminded me of a question that’s always bothered me about 7.8, “It’s Time For A Wedding”: why doesn’t Becky sleep with Sam when she has the chance?

This wee dram of a story is Becky’s answer.

Not As Easy To Pretend

Here’s why it didn’t work out between me and Sam:

He’s supposed to be with Dean.

You’d think I’d have known that.

I mean, you’d think of anyone, I would have known that!

Geez.

But I let, you know, other stuff overrule my brain and ended up making the worst mistake of my life.

Ok, maybe more than one.

I mean, I’m not an idiot. At some level, I knew it was a terrible plan, like Wesley-in-Angel level bad, but the first time I touched him again, in Vegas, I so did not care. I mean, I’d have risked the Apocalypse at that point, just have him look at me the way he does Dean.

Which, see? I knew better. Knew he didn’t belong with me. Knew those eyes wouldn’t have the same depth, or darkness, or love or lust or anything when they looked at me, no matter how much demon crap I gave him. Not the same as when he gazed down at Dean, all that affection practically spilling over his eyelashes and into his brother’s face.

Hmm. I like that. Maybe I can use it in the AU I’m working on.

Anyway.

So even then, when I should have been focused on writing my own story–OUR own story–I couldn’t escape the pull of theirs. It was stronger, hotter, sweeter than anything I could dream of between Sam and me.

Because, you know. I totally had that chance.

For over a week.

He was half-naked in my bed for more than a week and I–

Never so much as kissed him.

Except for that one time, at the table, but that doesn’t count because we were both upright and I had other things to worry about, then, than in cataloguing the smooth of his lips, the swing of his hips.

If you want to know the truth: at night, I slept on the couch.

He wanted to. Offered even, to give up the bed for me.

He’s really thoughtful, like that.

But no. There’s no way he would have fit there, and even he could see that through his puppy dog haze. So he’d sigh, every night, and pat my head. Kiss my cheek and hold me close just long enough for me to remember why I was doing this in the first place. Why I was willing to take all these crazy chances which, honestly, is not really my MO, taking chances.

Then he’d open his arms and squeeze my elbow and wind himself in my sheets. Bury his head under my pillows where I’d sighed his name a hundred times and tumble over into sleep.

He snored, but just a little. Not enough to keep me up, but enough to remind me that he was still there.

It was comforting. Human-generated white noise.

I’d stretch out on the couch and just lie there, for a while. Listening.

Thinking about the curve of his spine in the dark. I wondered if it looked like the way I’d described it in my story “Ceremony”:

He arched above Dean and his spine was like a snake, warm and alive under Dean’s fingers as he stroked, coaxed Sam’s tongue into his mouth and counted down each vertebrae like a rosary, Hail Marys in his mouth as they fucked.

And I knew I could get up and go look. Could watch his back rise and fall with sleep. Told myself it was research for my next fic, but something stopped me. Held me back.

I guess I felt like his body wasn’t mine to see. Not like that.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. There was part of me that wanted to dive under the covers and swallow him whole. I mean, yeah.

To see if he really was proportional.

And I knew he’d have let me. Heck, he’d have liked it, if only because of the drugs, but.

It wasn’t his decision to make. Not his body to give.

It was Dean’s.

If Sam belongs to anyone, it’s not to himself. It’s Dean.

So I didn’t get up. Never did. Just lay there and listened and thought of all the nights that Dean had done the same.

**

And then, I admit, things got a little weird.

I did.

Because when the drug ran out, when Guy started acting like a jerk, I was desperate. Didn’t know what else to do.

It was as though all my logic got stripped away, all of my ability to reason, to think, and there was just Sam, his heavy body in my parents’ bed at the cabin, and I’d have done almost anything–I did–to keep him close.

Even though I knew it was just a loan. That Dean would come to collect him sooner or later. Because he always does.

And the worst part is, I babbled. You know, somebody like me that’s always thinking in words, choosing them deliberately, being really careful about crafting and I just lost all of that, in front of Sam. I said all the worst things that popped into my head, all the stuff I’ve thought about us but never even written in the forums because everyone would think I was trolling. It was awful. So embarrassing. I could see that, in his eyes, how crazy I must have looked to him, then.

But I couldn’t stop.

He does something to me. Something I can almost control in my fic, but in real life? Forget it. He is just too–

Too–

Beautiful and perfect and broken. A body with a billion pieces that only Dean can reassemble, can stitch together with his hands and his mouth and a thousand whispers of “I’ve got you, Sammy.”

That’s from “Religion of the Fields.” One of the first things I ever wrote.

And it’s true. I’ve seen it.

Ok, I haven’t seen them like, you know, but the way they are when they’re in the same space? The way they stand, kind of leaning towards the other like magnets? Their eyes snagged on each other’s faces? Oh yeah. I’m telling you.

It’s all true.

Anyway.

I’ll never see them again.

When I write it down like that, I believe it.

When I see it on the page, I know that it’s true.

But in my heart, I keep hoping, I guess. Which is silly.

I mean, I’ve got them here with me all the time, in my fic. On my site. In my writing.

Sometimes, I sleep on the couch at night and pretend that Sam’s still here. That the whir of the fan in the bedroom is really the sound of his breath. That I can get up anytime I want and stand over him, watch his spine ripple like a snake in the dark.

It’s not as easy to pretend, now, as it was. As I’d still like it to be.

He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged


I’ve spent a lot of quality time with Becky Rosen lately. And this is a piece that’s come out of our communion.

I’ve been working with Becky since last November, when I watched episode 7.8, “It’s Time For A Wedding!” for the first time.

My first reaction to what I saw as the episode’s, uh, problems? Was to write my first S/D story, “Hot Blooded.”

My second? Was to start work on this piece, which has moved  from a presentation [of which this is version 2.0] to a lengthier academic essay.

The reaction that I’ve received to this work at the two conferences at which I’ve presented it has been generally positive, but it’s also stirred up some hornets’ nests for some folks, which is kind of awesome. 

This presentation relies pretty heavily on images [which is part of why I’m so fond of it, I think]; if you wish, you can download the associated slide show here

While Supernatural doesn’t belong to me, this work does. And, as Becky might say, everything may be a fic of everything else, but don’t try to slash this slasher, to represent this work as your own.

He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged:
Deleting Female Desire in “Season 7: It’s Time For A Wedding!”

Soon after its premiere in 2005, the television show Supernatural—the story of Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who’ve committed their lives to protecting people from supernatural creatures—spawned an online fandom dedicated to “slashing” Sam and Dean; that is, to writing stories in which the brothers are portrayed as lovers. Indeed, over the course of seven seasons, the existence of these narratives—affectionately dubbed “Wincest” by the show’s fans—has become a defining feature of Supernatural‘s primarily female fandom.

By introducing a meta-textual version of the show—a series of books also called Supernatural—into the primary narrative, the program’s producers have allowed Sam and Dean [and, by extension, the producers themselves] to comment upon the productive and consumptive practices of Wincest fans. However, the subsequent introduction of the character of Becky Rosen—dedicated Wincest writer and devoted fan of the Supernatural book series—has allowed the producers to take this commentary one step further: to illustrate the monstrous potential of the female fan, particularly one who actively engages in the construction, consumption, and distribution of Wincest narrative.

In this paper, I will argue that a central image in Becky’s most recent appearance in season seven, episode eight exemplifies the danger that the show’s producers see her [and the female fans for whom she stands, in their minds] posing to the show’s carefully maintained masculine order: the image (slide 1) of a semi-clothed Sam bound to a bed, his body and the text which it represents at the mercy of his female captor. The transgressive nature of this image lies in its reversal of what Laura Mulvey calls “the symbolic order” of gender in the visual, one in which “the silent image of woman [is] still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.” That is, the threat that Becky poses to Sam, to Supernatural, lies in her status as a woman and as a fan writer, as a figure who can upend the central narrative by affixing the masculine to her “rightful” place as the signifier of meaning while claiming the role of producer for herself. Continue reading “He’s Best When He’s Bound and Gagged”

Happy Hunting

I’ve put a new page up here on the blog: “Supernatural Fic Recs.” You can access it via the link in the navigation bar at the top of this home page. It’s just what it sounds like: some slash, some PWP, some not slash-y at all. I hope to keep adding to it as I go. In the meantime, happy hunting, and if you, dear reader, have recs of your own, I hope you’ll drop me a line.

Stories matter, damn it.

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So I went to an academic conference last week and presented a paper on Supernatural. Yes, I am awesome. Heh.

The conference I attended is dedicated to the study of popular culture. It was the first conference I’ve attended as a presenter, which. Sigh. But it went well–hell, I got to give a presentation that included the above shot of Sam without a shirt. Come on! And some very smart people said very nice things to me about my writing style (ah, the fastest way to my heart) and my sense of humor in said presentation. Which. Brief moment of happiness, of belief in my temporary awesomeness.

My work was on episode 7.8, “Season Seven: It’s Time For A Wedding!” Ah, yes, the one where Becky roofies Sammy and doesn’t fuck his brains out. I know, right? Complete science fiction.

Now academic conferences are a funny thing. They’re often a place for posturing and performance–and not by the people who’re onstage. People in the audience, well, they don’t like being in the audience, at some level. We all think we’re smarter than whoever’s talking and some of us take it upon ourselves to fucking prove that–to ourselves, to the rest of the audience, and especially to the presenter.

[ETA: I came very close to bring that person today during a panel at the conference I’m attending this week (where I presented a paper on metatextual Wincest and J2, but that’s a story for another post). Tried to restrain myself, even when smarmy panelist made it clear that he knows nothing about comics, that the only ones he’s ever read are those assigned in his comics 101 class last semester, a class from which all of the papers on the panel were drawn! Blargh!]

Ahem.

Toss a little female fandom into the mix–and topless pictures of Sam and Dean–and you have a receipe for fanwanking and sword-crossing on an epic scale.

Now I expressed some strong opinions about how The Powers That Be (TPTB) treat Becky in 7.8. I argue that TPTB delete Becky’s sexual agency in this episode once and for all, the culmination of an erosion that begins with her second appearance in 5.9, “The Real Ghostbusters” [though, sadly, I cut this gradiation part of the paper for time; ok, yes, it was like six pages long, but still. Sucked to take it out.]

I also suggested that the tactics that TPTB use to do rewrite Becky in this way are pulled straight from the Leviathan playbook in 7.6, the ironically titled “Slash Fiction.” That is, like the Leviathan, TPTB first tried outing Becky’s slash practices [and those of the fans she represents way back in 5.1, “Sympathy for the Devil] then shift to rewriting those practices as morally and legally reprehensible (as the Leviathan do by creating alternate versions of Sam and Dean who set out on a multi-state killing spree and create, in essence, a slash version of the “saving people, hunting things” story the boys have made for themselves).

I had a light touch with this material, I think [Sadly, I was the only presenter on our panel to use the word “fuck”–much less to use it repeatedly. Heh!]. But I also was pretty specific about how I read the producers’ acts of reinscription in this episode, of the ways in which they attempted to recode Becky [and the female (slash) fans that she represents] as potential rapists, as women desperate for societal approval, whose greatest desire is not to fuck Sam (see what I mean?) but to be read as happy heteronormatives.

So despite the good reception that I got for my work, I did have several people say to me (or in their presentations at the next Supernatural panel–yes, there was more than one)–that, oh, well, you know it’s all in fun, this rewriting of Becky. Or, well, can’t you blame it on the change in showrunners (no), on the bringing in of new writers (?!), or, at the very least, the producers are having a conversation with us, the [female] fans, and that means it’s ok.

You know what? It’s really not. Stories matter, the stories on TV matter, the stories that TV tells us about ourselves fucking matter. Intentionality makes no difference; I could care less what the producers have said on the message boards, or at a con, or on Twitter [sorry, Misha].

What matters to me is what the text is doing, what the texts say together, the ways in which the show’s primary narrative seems to stage repeated tactical attempts [in the de Certeau sense] to undermine or disrupt slash fiction, on Wincest, on the [primarily] female fans who produce and consume those texts. And, just as important, I’m interested in what the fans are doing with the primary text–how they embrace it, resist it, tweak it, undermine it, reject it, etc.

To me, the primary narrative of Supernatural suggests that female fandom in general, and slash fans in particular, make the show’s TPTB really fucking nervous. Or at least create an exigence to which the producers feel they must respond.

So, for me, there’s value in looking at the tensions within the texts. I am completely uninterested in reading about how the producers are talking to fans in a general sense outside of the primary narrative, for now. The text is doing, the fans are reacting, and these are interesting phenomena that are worthy of thought and examination. [And I hate it when people try to justify their research. Fuck, people, it matters to you; show me, rather than tell me, why I should care.]

All this is to say: there’s a fine line between fanwanking and academic scholarship, between professional fandom and everyday geekery. The key, I think, is that we not take ourselves too seriously as scholars, but that we do treat the texts and what they do as if they matter, really matter, to someone other than us. Because they do.